to Beauty Masks: Portraits
Grace Graupe-Pillard 2019
To conceal /shield /veil /distort one's physiognomy is a distinct and bold strategy that is ultimately revelatory. For many years, Judith Henry has been making charged self-portraits by covering her face and hands with painted and photographically collaged disguises––some grotesquely warped––while others shimmer with a ghostly light blending an emotional range that teases the human condition. In her art we view the malleability of skin transformed by age and the desire to capture eternal beauty through products which are deceptively heralded to defy nature's relentless clock.
In Beauty Masks: Portraits, Judith Henry rips photographs out of fashion and women's magazines choosing images of models for their diversity of race, hairdo, accessories and dress, as she partially hides her face, peeking out of pinholes uncloaking her translucent gray-green eyes and elegantly creased hands. Ironically, the exquisite women portrayed in Henry's works are themselves cosmetically "masked" with makeup and through techniques of photo retouching, conceding that appearances are fluid, tenuous and fleeting.
The array of "found" faces osmosing with Judith's own countenance are often seamlessly melded together; on other occasions, changes in select features are more pronounced––resulting in heartbreakingly bizarre collaborations. Tufts of Judith's hair flung over a glamorous subject's tresses; her own hand delicately attaching to a model's long tapering fingers; a quiet smile breaking into a wide demonic grin; sadness overwhelmed by elation; fragility resurfacing as resolution–– the infinite breadth of facial expressiveness is emotionally obliterating the web of time.
Judith Henry loves the capacity of art to transport the artist into uncharted terrains. The anonymity of the masks enables her to create deceptive work about herself. Henry's straightforward and cubistic alterations always involve her own lucid, open eye glancing at us, affirming her most intimate vitality, and what we do 'see' is undeniably unmasked and clearly both seductive and stunning.